It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of [man and his] government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.
James madison – federalist no. 51, feb. 8, 1788; bracketed insert my own
We continue now from Part 3 if you have been following this series.
Delegation vs. Non-delegation
As early as 1826 and again in 1866, and still again in 1895 the controversial debate began over whether Congress can or should delegate its legislative powers to other Branches and agencies of federal and state government. The argument has been raging ever since, even after the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1913. What was all the controversy about? Let’s look at a streamlined timeline:
1826 — Members of the 20th U.S. Congress were to be elected, but during a transitional period of the First Party System to the Second Party System. This caused deadlocks between several state legislators electing Senators. Many Senate seats remained vacant for up to 2-years.
1864 — John Stockton of New Jersey is controversially elected as Senator, but done so by the New Jersey state legislatures changing rules of election from a majority vote to a vague plurality vote.
1866 — The Senate eventually threw out John Stockton’s election then passed a law establishing uniform procedures for election of senators by state legislatures. Indiana had a similar flawed election.
1895 — Following the Civil War, disputed senate elections, constant tampering with election regulations by state legislatures, and increased deadlocks leaving Senate seats vacant for long periods, e.g. Delaware, eventually prompted many states to adopt the “Oregon System.”
1906 — Cosmopolitan magazine published the David Graham Phillip’s series, “The Treason of the Senate” which garnered and galvanized public support for widespread senatorial election reform.
1911 — Senators Joseph Bristow (KS) and William Borah (ID) offered resolutions to amend the Constitution followed by 29 states supporting the amendment measure. The Senate then passed the amendment.
1913 — The House passed the amendment, thus ratifying the Seventeenth Amendment with the necessary three-fourths majority.
During those 87-years the biggest problems the 17th Amendment helped resolve was the chronic deadlock of state legislatures paralyzing the federal Congress from doing its job: debating and passing laws for the benefit of the nation and American people. During the 19th-century many powerful, wealthy, influential corporations were seeking to control state legislatures to capture the Senate in Washington D.C. Subsequently, those senators would construct political mechanisms focused primarily on their own interests—and those of the corporations—rather than those of their own state, and worse, their own people of their state!
However, by the 21st-century, the basic problems persist with keeping our Republic democracy truly representative of We the People, A) the distortions, corruptions, and/or purveyors of “state’s rights” and ‘we don’t need no Yankees (Feds) telling us Rebels how to live happily with slavery/free-labor’ or B) the covert, repressive inequality schemes in individual states which always scream “state’s rights” the loudest and longest. Today they’ve only re-disguised their argument into modern political rhetoric that to very gullible, naïve hearing ears… sounds Constitutional and in-defense of the Founding Fathers. On the contrary, upon closer examination the rhetoric is destructive of all basic principles those same Founders intended to create: a Republic democracy for all citizens, no exceptions.
The problem today is not vacant senate seats lasting for up to two years of the 19th-century, but how often Congress delegates policy decisions to small federal agencies—heavily influenced by corporate lobbying groups and dollars—under very broad and vague standards. Care to guess who appoints the leadership controlling most of these agencies?
Yep, the President.
A prime example of the Bicameral Congress and its members skirting accountability to do their sworn job is the country’s 60-year epidemic of gun-control and domestic massacres by high-capacity, lethal, often military assault weapons. Even when a House majority might pass no-brainer, reasonable legislation for tighter, more thorough red-flag laws, for bans on all military-styled weapon sales to the general public, and higher smarter age-limits for gun-buyers along with mandatory 6-month gun-safety training minimum, our current 18th-century Constitution makes it quite easy for Senators (representing a distinct minority of the population) to block it or let it die.
Furthermore, and here is the jagged pill to swallow, as of September 2019, Senators from twenty-nine states with the HIGHEST average levels of gun-ownership control over 58% of the votes in the Senate, despite the fact that their own states represent just 46% of the nation’s population. The worst part of this ill-gotten misrepresentation is that even if the Senators from states of the majority of the American population all supported better, tighter, more gun-control laws, they would not have the necessary votes to pass it in the Senate. Hence, gridlock, unaccountability, more massacres of more students and/or church-goers occur, then the transgenerational damage is passed on to the next. Repeat again in four months or so, or less.
Folks, this is bicameralism at its finest for the last 60-years and counting. Or its worst. This is appalling! And should I cover widespread Climate Change denialism via false propaganda? I’ll spare my readers for now.
Due to 1) this incessant Congressional members irresponsibility, 2) defunct bicameralism causing gridlock and legislative inactivity or collapse, and 3) Congressional-careerists delegate increasingly more amounts of authority to the Presidents and Vice-Presidents—who often become their scapegoats in national tragedies. All too often Presidents and their political party’s platform and ideals become easy targets of opportunity for the opposing Party. Repeat it all over again during the next Administration’s tenor. Ladies and gentlemen, in our nation’s many, many domestic tragedies and multiple deaths of innocent Americans, rarely is the White House the sole problem of the tragedy. No, many times it is Bicameralism and career Congressional members not fulfilling and doing their Constitutional duties. They pass the buck.
Therefore, by default and dysfunction, our Supreme Court, who now repeatedly helps Congress to abdicate their Constitutional responsibilities—in gridlock and inactivity—makes the SCOTUS much more powerful than it was ever designed to be, and throws the sacred concept of Tri-Equal Authority within Separation of Powers out of balance, thus causing further dysfunctions.
The Supreme Court Turned Goliath by Default
Because for the last six decades Congress has increasingly and deliberately treated political risks not as their legislative duty, but as fodder for court disputes, our SCOTUS today is a behemoth of final authority and impunity. They have become more a nine member panel of supreme kingly/queenly rulers than actual court justices commissioned to overseeing the Executive and Legislative Branches as well as the appropriate interpretation of the Constitution; their originally designed function. Not anymore.
Congress is not naïve or ignorant about legislative vagueness or ambiguity in their language. They are very aware when they have passed ambiguous or potentially UN-constitutional legislation. As a stop-gap they intentionally pass this responsibility to the courts skirting any blow-back upon their careers and reelection.
There are two more prime examples of malfunctioning Balance and Separate Powers directly resulting from chronic congressional gridlock:
The 2000 Presidential Election & the Courts – in the state of Florida in December 2000, the people’s votes may have given Florida’s twenty-five Electoral College votes to the Democratic candidate Al Gore if a legal recount had been allowed. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Republican candidate George W. Bush won the popular vote in Florida, overruling the Florida Supreme Court’s demand for a legal recount. Essentially, only nine Justices (people) usurped, threw out the people’s votes in Florida, handing Bush the Presidency. This begs the simple question: Was this really a democratic free election by the people of Florida? Reading the dissenting opinions of the four (losing) Justices are recommended and generally agreed with by legal, constitutional scholars. Nevertheless, this Supreme Court decision allowed members of Congress, Carte Blanche to escape accountability for Bush’s presidential win as a minority president.
The Affordable Care Act vs. the U.S. Supreme Court – in the landmark decision of NFIB vs Sebelius, SCOTUS had the final authority on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act. In the end, the Supreme Court decided that in all future cases, whether many Americans lived at or below the national poverty line, it did not matter. They could NOT afford or receive adequate medical care if they lived in a state which refused healthcare based on their available or lack of financial status. In other words, your healthcare and well-being depended not on whether you were an American citizen or not, but in what zip code you resided, working or unable to work.
Bottom line? The Constitution’s Separation of Powers no longer functions as was originally designed by the Core Founding Fathers. Only a new, people’s Constitutional Convention—as written in our current constitution’s Article Five—can successfully and adequately reform our dead or decaying system as a whole, and return it to a true, more perfect union as a Republic. A Republic that actually functions for and serves its people, not as oligarchies, or corporations and a few court justices suppressing or oppressing its peoples well-being!
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In the next installment of this series, Part 5, I will show that our antiquated 18th-century Constitution has failed as a foundation for a representative democracy. I hope my loyal readers will join me again then. Thank you too for your continued patience with this series. Meanwhile, please do feel free to offer your feedback and thoughts in comments below. 😊
Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always
If only many more Vice-Presidents, or Presidents of the United States under such extraordinary circumstances as an assassination and death of their preceding President, in this case Abraham Lincoln, could be so brutally honest and so unequivocally correct. Most likely this country would have been a much, much better led nation.
President Andrew Johnson is widely regarded by U.S. historians as one of six of America’s worst, most abusive Presidents of their office in all of the 247-years of this country’s federal government. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. on Presidential legacies, states:
Andrew Johnson’s racism and antipathy towards African-American civil rights were a harbinger for similar attitudes to come during Reconstruction.
[He is] the first president to be impeached—but not convicted or removed from office—Johnson often contends with James Buchanan for the title of worst president.
Prior to former President Donald Trump, Richard M. Nixon was hands down regarded as the No. 1 All-time Worst U.S. President in our nation’s history. After January 6th, 2021 and the attack and insurrection on the U.S. Capitol Building, later proven to be premeditated, formed, led, and incited by former President Trump, the top-spot of “Worst President Ever” was far surpassed by the complicit, derelict behavior of the incompetent D.J. Trump. This begs the prior closing questions from Part 2: A New U.S. Constitution… How did the office of POTUS gain so much power and influence over both a triumvirate federal government and a minority radical mob of its citizens? We now continue from Part 2 and the dire need for a new 21st-century U.S. Constitution.
On a side note, I apologize for the delay of this Part 3. Mom’s severe dementia (early pre-stage Alzheimer’s) went through a past 2-3 week tough phase. It took a lot out of me as well managing it. Her PCP prescribed a new Alzheimer’s slash dementia drug that didn’t go as expected; too many side-effects for her. So we’ve been given another one: Memantine. So far, so good.
As noted in the previous Part 2, the 1787 Constitutional Convention gave immense power and control to the President. Recapping some of those powers, he or she possessed/possesses:
Ultimate command and decision of all U.S. military branches.
Power to veto any Congressional legislation, unless two-thirds of both Chambers overturned the veto.
Nominate virtually every single major federal officials and judges with Senate confirmation.
Office staying power unless a supermajority impeaches the President.
Conduct diplomacy with foreign nations, both friendly and otherwise, and sign treaties with the Senate’s approval, whether popular or not by the American people.
Issuing Executive Orders, which clarify laws as the President interprets them or direct Executive staff to further enforce existing laws.
Power to extend pardons and/or clemencies for federal crimes, even if based on personal preferences or biases.
Of these seven above bullet-points, at least six (6) former Presidents abused no less than five of these seven Executive powers. Many of these abuses happened because of domestic and foreign events. As a result, the Presidency (and his closest staff) seized the opportunity or opportunities to garner popular, public and political support even though the reactions or counter-measures might not have been legally Constitutional in hindsight, or at the time. Unfortunately, the principle of full Executive transparency has become a dying or dead art at the expense of the American people, their trust, and reproach of the Presidential Office. Two points and cases: 1) the end of Nixon’s 5-years, and 2) followed by Trump’s only term in office. Most everyone is familiar with Nixon’s criminal behavior, but at the end of the January 6th Committee’s Investigations & Hearings, they referred to the Department of Justice four criminal cases to pursue:
Obstruction of an Official Proceeding – in violation of Section 1512(c)(2) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.
Conspiracy to Defraud the United States – in violation of Section 371 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.
Conspiracy to Make a False Statement – in violation of Section 1001 of Title 18.
‘Incite,’ ‘Assist’ or ‘Aid and Comfort’ an Insurrection – in violation of Section 2383 of Title 18 of the U.S.C.
Whether a former United States President is actually indicted and sentenced for clear and obvious crimes based upon overwhelming evidence, remains to be seen. Fingers crossed.
Many 1787 Philadelphia delegates and most all Founders were very troubled by just how much power lay at the disposal of the Oval Office and its potential for abuses of executive actions. And this was in 1787! Today’s POTUS is above and beyond more robust than the Founders could have possibly imagined. To say they’d be deeply disturbed by today’s Presidential, forgiving latitude would be a gross understatement. At that time, delegates wanted an abusive President to be removed by a majority of legislators or to serve the desires of Congress, at the very least collaborate in amenable, reasonable ways. This is no longer the case and hasn’t been for over four decades or more. FDR was by far and away a vastly more powerful President than James Madison or Dwight Eisenhower. And Franklin Roosevelt was given his powers of great latitude by Congress because of widespread public fears brought about by the Great Depression and World War II. FDR even sought to expand his incredible latitude in office, particularly in his second-term due to America’s fears, and indirectly their naïvety of the office’s powers under the U.S. Constitution.
In 1936 and 1937 Roosevelt gained a supermajority of both the House and Senate for his Democratic Party due in large part from his large margin of victory in the popular-vote during his reelection. It is this evolution of political changes in the relationships between Branches, plus their influences upon Congress that set it all in motion. In those desperate times, the original intent and spirit of what the Founders wished was not a going concern by any means.
During the country’s 19th-century expansion west (Manifest Destiny & following), into the southern hemisphere and Central & South America, and around the western Pacific Ocean beyond Hawaii, past Presidents sought increased latitude and powers. They most often achieved them by wealthy, elite support from individuals and political organizations—what we might call SuperPAC’s today.
Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln—three of America’s strongest presidents—defied perceived constitutional restraints on their offices to meet what they saw as America’s political needs. Their decisions often were popularly ratified (in retrospect, sometimes unfortunately so).
george william van cleve, “making a new American constitution,” Maroon Bells Press. Kindle Edition.
Well after Roosevelt’s New Deal, the general public supported a vigorous American President, especially during hard, tumultuous times. Much of these decades after the New Deal have been positive. For instance, social welfare, which includes benefits we now take for granted, came into existence like funding for public education, healthcare, air-travel safety and regulations, and retirement (Social Security Benefits) as well as magnificent national parks and wilderness lands. But many Constitutional scholars and proponents of a robust Presidential office are increasingly worried that the White House has become or surpassed being imperial in nature.
Renown intellectual, American historian and social critic Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., is often quoted in the wake of Lyndon B. Johnson’s and Richard M. Nixon’s presidencies, that the office now behaves far too imperialistic. This was no more evident than during the Vietnam conflict and related military offenses such as the clandestine invasion of Cambodia which took the Vietnam conflict into further expansion, loss of life, and exponential drainage of American resources. And then there was Watergate. Nixon was caught in rampant criminal behavior and abuse of presidential power. Despite Congress passing several laws soon after, intended to limit presidential abuse, most experts of The Hill believe they are feeble symbolic laws with no bite. Perfect example? The 1973 War Powers Act.
This Senate Resolution #440 was intended to restrain the Commander in Chief’s rash, and/or reckless abuse of America’s military might and the lives therein. However, in the end the resolution left broad sometimes vague discretion to the president allowing the use of military force as the immediate choice. As co-chairs of the Miller Center War Powers Commission in July 2008, both former Secretaries of State James Baker (to H.W. Bush) and Warren Christopher (to Bill Clinton), as they had testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2008, they and the committee unanimously recommended changes to the War Powers Act. It sought to encourage much more significant consultation between the Executive Branch and Congress in times of foreign hostility. And on a footnote, Baker and Christopher represented both political parties; a bipartisan recommendation.
But due to the Constitution’s ambiguity coupled with an inefficient weaker Congress, if anything has transpired since FDR’s huge latitudes, the President’s imperial power has been allowed to continue if not grow. As a result, this expansion raises serious questions about 1) national security lying in the hands of one office, and 2) the critical concept and application of “Separation of Powers.” It is here that Americans and their modern politicians have lost their way and strayed.
[The Congress shall have power] …To declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning captures on Land and Water; …
On this section and clause regarding the Commander in Chief’s war powers, I am unsure how much more it could be crystal clear. Seriously. The Constitution establishes explicitly the separation of Congress’ means of declaring war and the sitting President’s intentions or actions with the nation’s armed forces and (18th-century) militia. Why is this? It would seem to be a no-brainer, but for the sake of factual information, the explicit purpose of the Separation of Powers principle is this: making war undeniably puts great risks upon our nation’s resources and our military families for several generations to follow. The Founders understood this profoundly. They even had their own immediate and/or extended family, flesh and bone give their own limbs and livelihoods in past or present wars. Congress is supposed to be a safety measure, a hedge against rash reactions by a President. Never did the core Founding Fathers imagine a president—no matter how adept—should have the unilateral decision to enter or manipulate the U.S. into a foreign conflict. That would border on or define unchecked imperial authority, something the Founders witnessed first-hand all too often in their lives.
Be that as it may, the question remains: In modern America, particularly during the 20th-century, has this Constitutional principle been clear and unequivocal, especially in light of the Second Iraqi War and post-9/11 regarding the Taliban in Afghanistan? And keep in mind that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan the majority of his 13-year escape and concealment from U.S. forces and agencies, not in Afghanistan.
President James K. Polk in 1846 went looking for a war with Mexico, which he had always favored, for increased American commerce and economic expansion of American businesses and their business moguls. In the 77-years since the end of World War II many analysts and critics of Washington, D.C. feel Congress has relinquished its Constitutional duty to oversee and prevent unilateral military actions by a single man, an imperialistic president.
Another recent example. In 2019 both chambers of Congress voted to block U.S. sales of military weapons to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. for their initiated war in Yemen. Essentially this conflict is America’s and two Presidential administrations: Obama’s and Trump’s. In July of 2019, however, Trump vetoed three congressional resolutions to stop weapons sales and would have stopped the slaughter of over 250,000 Yemen civilians at the time. But Trump went even much further. He audaciously declared the conflict an “emergency” to bypass Congress all together, speeding up the sales and export of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.
But Trump was simply following a long precedent of Congressional abdication and irresponsibility within the Constitutional principle of checks-and-balances. Today, Congress mostly “passes the buck” to the President’s discretion—i.e. to be the possible fall-guy rather than lose their own opulent, long-term salaries and pensions. And yet still, the removal by impeachment of a dictatorial, imperial president requires a supermajority vote. Congressional funding cutoffs for irrational, high-risk military actions abroad can simply be vetoed or ignored by presidents, all essentially legal under our 18th-century Constitution.
In his 1961 farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower had this to say about the Cold War arms race with the Soviet Union, a confounding, necessary(?) evil:
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be might, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. . . . American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Today, the weapons of the 21st-century can destroy the planet or cripple one or two continents in a few hours or a day. Presuming it is indeed a “necessary evil,” should the unilateral power and decision rest with one office, one man, in one moment? As our modern Constitution stands right now with an ineffective or spineless Congress, yes, one president can indeed cause the extermination of the planet, in part or in whole. Think about that.
The United States has consistently accounted for between one-third and forty percent of all world military spending. The United States’ defense budget has increased roughly 50-percent during that period, to 600 billion dollars per year or more in 2011 dollars.
Over the last thirty-five years specifically, the U.S. has become a country of excessive exercises of military production and bullying around the globe despite its incessant rhetoric of freedom and democracy for all. To much of the world we resemble the brutal Roman Empire than we do what the original Founding Fathers intended to create.
This current American condition begs two enormously important questions:
As with very successful, long established private corporations and their demands/requirements of new job-applicants, does the U.S. have a Constitutional protocol for choosing the best president and congress-people that places the candidates into office with the utmost qualifications and experience to comfortably manage the most potent military force in known history and the ever complex foreign policy it coherently demands? — And…
Do those federal elected officials have the reasonable political incentives to execute those controls over the highly influential political donations of the American “military-industrial complex” of which Eisenhower referred?
The answers to these two questions are pretty obvious. No.
In the last 30-years of U.S. presidents only one president has had any level of military experience in his background: George W. Bush. And if it matters in a modern, ineffective, spineless Congress, the number of veterans elected by American voters into the House of Representatives or the Senate has been in a sharp decline since 1973 (see Table above). To be fair, many observers and critics of presidential administrations would conclude that George W. Bush’s military “experience” wasn’t really legitimate experience—simply the part-time Texas Air National Guard; not a combat unit in the least. This sharp decline is or should be of critical concern to all American voters. But remarkably it is not, as is evidenced by the popular vote over the said 30-years. And over the past thirty years what does our nation have to show, factually, to boast about regarding the enormous expenditures of tax-payer dollars and more importantly irreplaceable American or human lives in undebated wars, quasi-wars or conflicts the last several decades?
Congress: The Rotted Branch
How many times in your memory do you remember our U.S. Congress being stuck in a stalemate, a standoff or shutdown, and completely unable to proceed with legislating, debating, and passing beneficial laws for the American people? Care to guess? Do you think it might be three or four? Perhaps six or seven times in your lifetime? Less? A lot more?
Well, that was a bit of a trick question. Why? Because it depends on precisely how one defines stalemate or shutdown and paralyzed. The most recent total paralysis was of course the selection of a new House Speaker in January 2023. Without an elected majority House Speaker, both branches of Congress would come to a halt causing a ripple-effect of havoc upon federal legislation and representatives therein unable to offer daily services to constituents. Staff there would lose their pay and benefits. That’s just the first ripple-effect after a few days. Listing all the potential collapses throughout our federal government would require another 3-thousand to 4-thousand words to explain and perhaps another week of drafting for me. Let’s skip that dreadful scenario, shall we.
According to Wikipedia and its “Government Shutdowns” page, since 1980 there have been no less than ten (10) collapses of one or more days. But Wikipedia wisely conditions the list saying “This list includes only major funding gaps which led to actual employee furloughs within federal departments of the US government. It does not include funding gaps that did not involve shutdowns of government departments…” The complex contemporary issues surrounding and influencing the rising paralysis of Congress involves every major federal debt and budgets, including but not limited to public debt, military budgets, taxation, the economy, unemployment, and healthcare reform to name just six facets of multitudes.
Like it or not, our 18th-century U.S. Constitution contributes substantially to this chronic paralysis, it is not the usual rhetoric of party officials, ideologies, and uncompromising congress-members bent on their personal futures as we are often told. It isn’t just controversies over redistribution of wealth or equality. One example is on more extensive gun-control regulations. Opinion polls the last five to ten years have repeatedly shown that around 80% — 90% of Americans support universal background checks for all weapons sales. Very reasonable background checks and further red-flag laws on sale-requirements are without a doubt constitutional simply for general public safety. Yet sadly, over the last 30-40 years Congress has generally been apathetic, indifferent to act on such gun-control public safety issues despite the widespread support of them, particularly by school districts and places of worship!
What has been the true price for Americans to have a chronically ineffective, often paralyzed, 18th-century stifled Congress? How many school students and teachers like Uvalde, TX? How many church-goers like the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX? How greedy is the congressional beast versus its modern, perceived benefits? Can you count them all?
As of 2018, three-hundred (300) congressional members received $75,528 per annum salaries, plus Secondary Security Income (SSI), outstanding health benefits, and very generous pensions. Another additional 300 retired members—also with pensions and great health coverage—received an average $41,208 per year without SSI, but they are entitled to receive and most often draw it as well. All in all, as of 2019 the congressional pensions are between 2.5 to 4-times as much as the average American receives from their lifetime of hard work in Social Security! There’s more appalling news-facts about our present and past congressional members…
American legal scholar, political critic, and acclaimed academic Lawrence Lessig, discovered that more than four-hundred (400) present and former members of Congress have created campaign fundraising schemes, known as Leadership PAC’s, that provide them lucrative travel anywhere, 4-5 star meals, and entertainment extravagances which all fall into an IRS category of “discretionary non-taxable compensation.” And as of today, it is Constitutional and legal for them to live such lifestyles. By the way, for some perspective, the 2022 national poverty-line or wages/income considered impoverishing in the U.S. was $13,590/year for a single person, and for a household of three people it was $23,030 per year. Compare that to the congress-member who draws an average minimum of $116,736 per year (75,528 + 41,208) and often much, much more.
Just in 2014 Leadership PAC’s raked in over $50-million dollars. Today the totals are significantly higher. Sit down, it gets even more appalling. Each of 435 House Representative members receive over $1-million in office expenses alone. These packages usually compensate about 12-15 full-time staff associates; bigger state-members receive more than $1-million. The (sole?) purpose of each member’s “office expenses” is to undoubtedly guarantee that their boss, the House Representative member, keeps their job after the next election.
For the fiscal year 2020, a very conservative estimate of the total budget for the Congress, including all ancillary agencies such as the Capitol Police Force, was roughly $5-billion dollars, or approximately $10-million per House member (citation).
By almost any middle-class American standard, congress-members live a very comfortable, opulent life, both at work and home.
Where else can someone draw a salary of $174,000; have a staff of several dozen catering to their (and their family’s) every whim; enjoy special access to information and resources at the highest levels of government; forge lucrative relationships with people of immense power and influence; take taxpayer-funded jaunts to all corners of the country and the world; and command constant attention from the local and national media—all in exchange for producing little in the way of tangible outcomes?
Why would any congress-member want to leave such an easy, undemanding office job unless retiring into a lap-of-luxury? What’s better for them to stay is that 1) voters cannot place term-limits on their service thanks to 2) the 1995 Supreme Court decision of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. versus Thornton, which determined (rightly so) that such limits would be unconstitutional, according to our 18th-century Constitution. Consequently, in the following 28-29 years and the three decades ending in 2009, more than 85% of all members of Congress who ran for reelection were comfortably re-elected. Why? Because there is little incentive for new younger blood to run for those congressional seats. For the last 10-years little has changed in this congressional picture and setup.
Does it come as any shock that the average tenure in office of congressional members is now nearing quadruple what it was in the 1800’s and tripled in the 1900’s? Far too many non-competitive House seats have created very well-paid, time-serving, lifetime serving careerists, not citizen-legislatures serving their district of Americans. Today, only about 15% to 12% of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives (HoR) are actually contested. According to Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo, “Buying the Bums Out: What’s the Dollar Value of a Seat in Congress?” (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, 1999), most members of Congress do not intentionally give up their seat unless offered somewhere in the neighborhood of $1- and $5-million in 2019 dollars, and this depends on whether or not their seat will stay within their own partisan-party-loyal guidelines. As a congressperson once put it, “Capitol Hill is a farm league for K Street” lobbying interests.
As a result of these de-incentivized, ineffective congressional work conditions, widespread gerrymandering, by both major parties, protects their incumbent officials against competition, playing a huge role in keeping lifetime(?) careerists in the HoR. Imagine how intimidating this challenge is for a young newcomer. Think of how this kills any hope of a third-party, like Independents or Green-party supporters receiving representation on Capitol Hill—this, despite that approximately 40% — 43% of voters in the U.S. are Independents.
Therefore, with these types of incentives for current, career congress-members why risk losing a life of luxury and very generous pension and retirement in your 70’s or 80’s? Congress-careerists are nurtured to avoid taking responsibility for key (controversial) issues that might jeopardize their re-election. Some simply don’t show up to vote, others play all sides of a big issue or dole out generic lip-service to the media and their constituents. Then this dodging of accountability leads to frequent inactivity or snails-pace bureaucracy, or total gridlock in Congress. And most congress-members have mastered the art of of shifting perceived responsibility or blame onto other Branches of government, like the President, especially if the White House resident is traditionally opposite/opposed to their own party.
Probably one of the most historic blunders and deadly disasters of an American partisan, broken, ineffective Congress to effectively improve our intelligence communities, both domestic and globally, and despite many strong proposals to reform procedures and protocols between intelligence agencies… happened on Sept. 11th, 2001. These findings have been confirmed and reconfirmed in many later investigative studies, examinations, official reports, and forensic analysis of events and intelligence leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and the reaction of passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, PA.
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Due to the length and time it required me to draft and write this Part 3 of A New U.S. Constitution, I have decided to pickup the serious problem of Congressional Bicameralism in Part 4. It will also include just how utterly powerful our Supreme Court has, by default of Congress, become today—SCOTUS has begun indirectly legislating laws for America when it was originally the explicit, expressed duty of the Congress’ job-description laid forth by our Founding Fathers! That will be Part 4. I hope you will join me then. And my apologies again for the delay in Part 3. Thank you all kindly for your patience and understanding. 🥰
Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always
In an 1849 speech to the Massachusetts Bible Society and at that time a twice elected member to Congress’ House of Representatives and later appointed House Speaker, his following words echoed several of the newly formed United States government charters and their Founding Fathers:
Our 18th Century Constitution Nurtures Political & Economic Inequality Today
Mr. R.C. Winthrop, a respected lawyer and descendant of Governor John Winthrop from the original 1630 Massachusetts Bay Colony, in his speech essentially repeated what several U.S. Founding Fathers and Constitutional framers believed, designed, and ratified six decades earlier in Philadelphia at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It was the widely held belief that people, especially men and their innate predisposition toward unbecoming vices and selfish misconduct (sin?), had to be governed one way or another. Or they at least required protections, supervision against unfair and partial laws which might oppress particular segments of society, and vice versa.
One of those Founding Fathers was Alexander Hamilton. At the Philadelphia Convention he told its members:
Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all power to the few, they will oppress the many. Both therefore ought to have power that each may defend itself agst. [sic] the other.
And Hamilton was not the only one advocating for fair laws, supervisions, and protections for all classes of society. But it’s worth noting here too that human slavery and trafficking in America had been thriving for many, many decades and oddly enough, Hamilton’s words, his colleagues’ words, and even Winthrop’s words had little or no meaning whatsoever for non-whites or women. Nevertheless, what these great men sought was the promotion of maximum economic opportunity inside a dynamic and growing nation with some protections for legitimate wealth.
What was meant by legitimate wealth in the minds of our 18th and 19th century Founders? Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, and a host of secondary Founders all agreed that hereditary wealth accumulation like what existed in Great Britain’s society and Parliament, was in fact a heavily corrupting factor on a Republic’s governing body which would inevitably cheat and oppress “the many.” As recent history had shown them with the collapse and/or overthrows of several imperial European kingdoms and monarchies in the 16th–18th centuries, to deter such tyrants or wild blood-thirsty mobs from seizing power, our Founding Fathers wrote Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of our U.S. Constitution, which states:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
But here is the astonishing irony between what our Founding Fathers feared then, and what many Americans fear today and see has already happened.
In 1787’s Pennsylvania Convention and forward up to Winthrop’s 1849 speech, it wasn’t so much a foreign power’s aristocracy they saw as a serious threat. It was the potential for a powerful domestic oligarchy being created that they really feared. Several Founding Fathers were uneasy about the capability of private wealth, legitimate or not, to merge with government authority and legislation, thus destroying true republicanism. On this risk, the Constitutional framers vigorously looked to insulate government policy away from private wealth and its self-interests that, like Great Britain, had corrupted her and several other European imperial monarchies and aristocracies for several centuries or more.
One of these troubled framers was oddly enough Elbridge Gerry (left), born into a very wealthy American merchant family, of which the political practice of gerrymandering was named after, Gerry opposed the union of a central bank and a national army/navy. Why did he?
Because as had been shown in Europe, e.g. Ivan IV (the Terrible) and Oliver Cromwell to name the well-known tyrants of the time, the enormous amount of both could be used to seize total power. But the irony gets even better!
The Constitution that Congressman Gerry and the many Founding Fathers wrote in 1787, today protects a domestic oligarchy against the greater good, “We the People,” or the majority will, and does so in basic ways. A closer look at the Constitution’s original wealth protections will contrast what was meant in 1787 versus what has happened now in the 20th and 21st centuries in America. From Dr. Van Cleve and our Constitution:
The 1787 Constitution (and the Bill of Rights) protected the existing distribution of wealth in America using both legal and political means. The Constitution contained various legal protections for private property. For example, its “Contracts Clause” protected creditors against widespread efforts during hard times in the 1780s by debtors to reduce or escape their debts.
Van Cleve, George William – “Making a New American Constitution.” Maroon Bells Press, 2020. Kindle Edition.
However, many other Founding Constitutional framers, mostly in the agricultural South, felt those protections did not go far enough, particularly with their mass wealth in private slaveholdings and its free labor. Southern plantation owners feared that northern interests might use their federal powers to divest or cripple their unpopular “property values,” or to be perfectly transparent, their slaves and free slave-labor. This one controversial debate over “property values” bled over into other heated arguments about fair taxation and state representation and therefore how much authority a federal government should or shouldn’t have over member states.
Some Political-Wealth Protections Afforded by the 18th Century Constitution
Rigorous Limitations on Federal Taxation Powers — these prohibit taxes of “Capitation or other direct” taxes unless made by the states according to the decennial Census.
Indirect Wealth Protections — this is done so by rigidly fashioning large aspects of earlier generational hierarchal power, long established and in existence, thus significantly limiting its redistribution. By freezing these it greatly undermines the federal government’s sensible ability to tailor the distribution of resources and wealth fairly.
Under the 1777 Articles of Confederation—America’s first constitution—each colony or state had one equal vote in a one-house Congress. By 1786 all the Constitutional framers knew some states were substantially larger in population and wealthier than other states. As one might imagine then, this caused heated debate over fair, equal representation and how that would be defined! Even today this is a controversial topic.
Controversy aside, consider this… and study closely the following four data-tables. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2021, these are the ten wealthiest states (💵) in America:
Did you notice how many least populated states or tiny states (⚛️) are listed in the Top 10 Wealthiest states and those with the most millionaires, billionaires/trillionaires (💵)? Look again. Do you see a 20th and 21st century pattern or imbalance between wealth vs. population, and therefore between fair, proportional federal representation from “We the People”?
In light of those questions, let’s consider what a core Founding Father, John Adams, had to say along with several other Founders in July 1776 at the Continental Congress. These are the archived, later handwritten notes of Thomas Jefferson recorded for posterity (emphasis mine):
John Adams advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said that we stand here as the representatives of the people. That in some states the people are many, in others they are few; that therefore their vote here should be proportioned to the numbers from whom it comes. Reason, justice, & equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth to govern the councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted. That therefore the interests within doors should be the mathematical representatives of the interests without doors. That the individuality of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the individuality of a colony increase it’s wealth or numbers. If it does, pay equally. If it does not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in argument. A. has £50. B. £500. C. £1000. in partnership. Is it just they should equally dispose of the monies of the partnership? It has been said we are independent individuals making a bargain together. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to form us, like separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our separate individuality, but become a single individual as to all questions submitted to the confederacy. Therefore all those reasons which prove the justice & expediency of equal representation in other assemblies, hold good here. It has been objected that a proportional vote will endanger the smaller states. We answer that an equal vote will endanger the larger. Virginia, Pennsylvania, & Massachusetts are the three greater colonies. Consider their distance, their difference of produce, of interests & of manners, & it is apparent they can never have an interest or inclination to combine for the oppression of the smaller. That the smaller will naturally divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode isld, from it’s relation, similarity & intercourse will generally pursue the same objects with Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware & Maryland, with Pennsylvania.
John Adams and several other Founders were clearly arguing in 1776 that it was exceedingly unwise and hazardous politically to have smaller tinier states be treated like the larger states, as economic equals and representative equals! More often than not the largest states will have different or opposing interests, let alone their voices unheard, drowned-out or disregarded, by the minority states, and thus by default, policies would be enacted against their state’s better, and possible long-term interests.
By the time of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 numerous delegates, both publicly and privately, had agreed with Adams’ mathematical logic, especially regarding state-equality. In fact, many of them viewed individual, smaller states as far too powerful to represent accurately or fairly the federal whole, or the supermajority or even the simple majority! James Madison was one such prominent delegate. He basically felt that if the infant United States were ever going to seriously join and influence the rest of the world’s major powers, they had to work as one nation rather than two, three, or four opposing, and hence weaker sub-nations. Other world powers just would NOT take America serious if we repeatedly behaved as several bickering, defiant children (states). Or to put it another way, mostly rural agricultural states pitted equally against urban, heavily populated states.
As a consequence and a massive compromise reached, the 1787 Constitutional Convention established one of the untenable core principles for our nation to this day: a major redistribution of governmental power between all states but far fewer people.
[The Convention] based states’ relative voting strengths in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College heavily on their populations. (In the era’s predominantly agricultural economy, states’ populations correlated very strongly to their wealth). Many of the most important new federal powers granted by the Constitution including taxation could be exercised by majority vote, not by a supermajority as the Articles [of Confederation] had required. Unfortunately, at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, obtaining essential federal powers became politically possible only after very substantial concessions were made to protect powerful vested economic and political interests.
VAN CLEVE, GEORGE WILLIAM – “MAKING A NEW AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.” MAROON BELLS PRESS, 2020. KINDLE EDITION.
Anyone who still argues today that our U.S. federal government has the same equal power and representation as a group of tiny states, e.g. Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wyoming, and both Dakotas, as well as representing the simple majority of the American people is deranged. The data-tables above and the 246-year history of this nation simply does not bear out this notion.
Plain and simple, the 1787 Constitution did not establish a perfectly level playing field for a representative republic. On the contrary, delegates from the more rural colonies/states in the agricultural South with their generally smaller populations of white free-men forced two (2) enormous compromises, as described by Dr. Van Cleve:
[First], The Convention gave two Senate votes to each state, thus giving greatly disproportionate power to small states. The Senate’s structure disregarded entirely the great disparities in states’ population and wealth. (At the time, for example, Virginia’s free population was roughly nine times the size of Delaware’s). That meant that the six smallest of the original thirteen states, which at the time together had about 20 percent of the total free population, received 46 percent of the total Senate votes.
In a second major compromise, the Philadelphia Convention agreed to give the five major slave states exaggerated political power through the “Three-Fifths Clause.” That provision artificially increased the slave states’ populations in allocating House of Representatives seats and Electoral College voting strength. As of 1820, slave states received a premium of about eighteen seats in the House, or 8 percent of its total seats, due to the Three-Fifths Clause. That premium substantially influenced national policies in their favor by protecting both their agricultural export economies and their persistent efforts to expand slavery westward.
VAN CLEVE, GEORGE WILLIAM – “MAKING A NEW AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.” MAROON BELLS PRESS, 2020. KINDLE EDITION.
This political advantage of ‘the few’ lasted for 81-years until the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in July of 1868 after victory two-years earlier by the Union Army at Appomattox, Virginia, ending the American Civil War. However, the tiny states’ enormous voting premium in the Senate chamber still exists to this day.
Small State Influence Today Aids Republicans, Protecting Wealth Inequality
Over the last 154-years due to socioeconomic progress and change, these tiny states’ impact on our federal republic have actually grown even bigger since 1787 and 1868. As of 2021, the twenty-eight smallest states of the Union together have only approximately 20% of America’s total population. But they have at least 56% of the total Senate votes! And it is common knowledge that for Congress to make beneficial policies and pass laws for the betterment of the country, these actions require support from BOTH Congressional Chambers. Our ten largest states by population, meanwhile, where over half of the U.S.’s total population resides, possess only about 20% of the Senate votes.
The Senate has become the tiny states’ fortress for protecting and maintaining wealth inequality and political power. For the last 2-3 decades or more the Republican Party has not only recognized this huge amount of leverage, but has fiercely strengthened its impact on federal policies which favor their political and economic advantage of ‘the few’. Their voting advantage also seriously influences the Electoral College during elections as seen by eighteen total unpopular Presidents winning the White House, i.e. they did not win a majority of the popular/general vote by the American people, but won the Electoral College votes. I will examine this Senate affect on the E.C. later in the series.
You may have heard at some point during your adult life or in your high school or college classroom that the United States was formed as a Constitutional democracy. True, but not entirely. The United States was also designed to function (in theory?) as a democratic republic. The two concepts are similar, but not identical nor are they any longer interchangeable in the 20th and 21st centuries as they were in the 18th and early 19th centuries. As shown earlier, the Core Founding Fathers of our nation, six of them, eventually aligned with John Adams’ definition of our new nation:
“ No determinations are carried, it is true, in a simple or representative democracy, but by consent of the majority or their representatives.”
Adams, john – 1784
This mixed concept of a democratic republic can also be inferred from Benjamin Franklin and James Madison on the Bill of Rights Institute’s website. However, what we have in the United States today is not what Adams, Madison, Franklin, and several other Fathers envisioned nor drafted; not at all.
Due to the Constitution’s small state biases it hands one party a systematic advantage in federal elections and legislation, and to most corporate and mega-corporate interests who, since the 2010 Landmark Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs. FEC, now wield massive, unfettered funding to political campaigns of specific candidates or political party of their own legislative corporate interests instead of individual Americans within a representative republic.
Furthermore, both this one party and the mega-wealthy corporations are generally opposed to increased economic fairness and to limiting too much wealth (and thus, huge political power) concentrated in one ideology of ‘a few’ private American executives—which ironically is exactly what happened to 16th thru 17th century Great Britain. In those two centuries all the wealth and power rested only in Britain’s elite aristocracy (oligarchy), not the voiceless commoners.
One final observation. In 235-years not much has changed with the Constitution’s provisions. However, the essence of American society certainly has changed and drastically. In 2021–2022 greater than 80% of Americans live in urban areas. Let me repeat that: more than 80%! In 1787 though, 95% of Americans lived in rural areas. This colossal change is still not reflected today in our Bicameral Congress. Clearly, the modern United States is not a representative democracy by John Adams’ and the Founding Fathers’ definitions.
The Constitution’s “Separation of Powers” Has Become Defunct
At the heart of our Constitution and its framers was the deep fear of too much centralized authority with one body or one tyrant, king, or queen, as was manifested in King George III and Britain’s Parliament between 1760 and 1820. Therefore, they created three different types or branches of equal power: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches. These three equal powers balanced the national government as well as making each monitor or check and balance the other two branches for appropriate and legal conduct. As noted, the framers did this for two primary reasons:
Protection against tyranny (e.g. Richard M. Nixon and Donald J. Trump). Separation of powers was intended to divide the federal government’s lawmaking and law-enforcement powers and prevent them from becoming overcentralized and tyrannical.
To Prevent Aggrandizement of Power by any one branch. In other words, these Separation of powers were intended to prevent any one branch from abusing its designated powers by equally empowering the other two branches to check-up on their competitor’s exercises of authority.
But this original Constitutional design depended heavily on one single factor: whatever the authority given on paper, they can only remain equal when federal leaders of all three branches seek equally to uphold the distinctive powers of their own institution or branch. This is part of their sworn vows when taking office. Over the last three decades or more this has not been happening. In fact, it has gotten worse, lopsided in power toward two branches, if not one branch. In 1788 James Madison explicitly warned about this very risk:
“ The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
The fact that over approximately the last sixty-to-seventy sessions of Congress—dating back to Ronald Reagan—Congress has “passed the buck” of legislative political responsibility over to the Executive Branch or the Judicial Branch far far too often! Case and point. If Congress was originally given the authority of investigation, a form of checks-and-balances like the current January 6th Committee Hearings, but never exercises this power or only does so when it benefits their own party’s ideals, then those leaders are not protecting, much less validating their own institution/branch. What then, will incentivize these leaders to do their under oath, sworn jobs? What will light a fire under their asses? Dr. Van Cleve wisely asks several questions about the intent and purpose of the Constitution’s “Separation of Powers” to show why it is integral to protect against too much centralized authority—or more bluntly, against dictatorship and tyranny—while simultaneously providing unified power and authority when needed. These are his questions:
◾ Why is it desirable for a president to have authority to send troops into a distant country such as North Korea, and ask Congress for approval only after they invade? ◾ Why should members of Congress be able to serve for an unlimited number of terms, particularly if they are elected from districts or states in which there is no political competition? ◾ Why is it desirable for Senators to be eligible to run for president after one six-year term in the Senate (or an even shorter time), if that damages the Senate as an institution? ◾ Why should Supreme Court justices be able to serve for more than twenty-five years? ◾ Why should the Supreme Court have the power to decide presidential elections, or to decide whether the United States can have a national healthcare insurance system?
VAN CLEVE, GEORGE WILLIAM – “MAKING A NEW AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.” MAROON BELLS PRESS, 2020. KINDLE EDITION.
Should any one branch or one man/woman have all of those above powers? Should one branch or one man/woman not have at least one of those above powers? Of course, in Constitutional theory these are rhetorical questions. Imagine the indecisive chaos and internal bickering that would exist during hard, challenging times demanding swift action if these above conditions were not spread out evenly, equally among our three different (opposing) branches. But today this power balance no longer exists in its pure original form. Why or why not?
An Imperial U.S. Presidency
In his personal notations called Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, James Madison wrote that remarkably the delegate’s discussions or debates about the office and function of the President were quick, timid, and made with broad strokes.
That timidness was odd and quite contrary to several Founders and delegates who had often voiced their deep fears of giving too much centralized power to one office or branch. Part of the reason for their timidness was the undeniable large presence of presiding officer of the Convention, 6-ft 2-in George Washington (above, next to his Arabian horse Magnolia). Even when quiet, Washington’s demeanor demanded utter respect and caution before speaking up. Very few Convention delegates dared to go up against the tall authoritative presence of General Washington. He was quite literally the walking, living standard of military and political leadership seemingly equal to Moses in the Old Testament.
As a result of this generally unspoken fear of George Washington, the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787 gave the Executive Branch more power than even individual state governors of the time AND total command of the entire U.S. military forces. They gave the office the power to veto Congressional legislation unless two-thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives overrode the President’s veto. They gave to the Executive Office the authority to virtually nominate ALL major federal officials and judges, though subject to Senate confirmation. And lastly, the President could only be impeached from office by a supermajority vote of Congress, something near impossible to achieve today.
This level of power and authority for the President deeply troubled Madison, Franklin, Mason, Adams, Wilson, and other delegates. Its power thrilled Alexander Hamilton though. After all, Hamilton promoted the idea that the U.S. President should serve in office for his entire life, name Cabinet members without any Senate approval, have absolute veto on Congressional legislation, and choose when and how to wage war on foreign nations.
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I will stop here for now because Part 2 has become somewhat lengthy; lengthier than I had intended. In Part 3 I will finish this section about how imperial the U.S. Presidency has increasingly become starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and more so, with the presidents of the 21st century. How did this happen, then culminate on January 6th, 2021? Secondly, I will examine how Congress has essentially become a dysfunctional institution, enabling members of Congress to be inactive or near non-existent, yet paid to be millionaires by our taxpayer dollars. This is unfortunately caused by our bicameral system and congress members being grossly overpaid for doing too little. And finally, due to our broken Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court has by default filled the power vacuum created by our dysfunctional Congress. Furthermore, later in the series I will also explore how a sizable American conservative population actually believe that our Charters of Freedom—particularly the Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights (or the first 10 Amendments) of the Constitution—are somehow, by some paranormal superstition, “divinely inspired” on the level of the Greco-Roman Judeo-Christian gospels or Greek New Testament! Yes, though there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, they really do believe this. 😖
I hope you will stay tuned for the next installment of how badly we, the U.S., need a 21st century Constitution, not an antiquated 18th century one. Until then, please feel free to join in the discussions below.
Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always
“The Framers intended our U.S. Constitution to be a fundamental framework of law. They did not want the Constitution to be changed in response to transient whims. However, they also recognized that American society and conditions would change over time in ways they could not predict in 1787.
George Mason said “Amendments, therefore will be necessary and it would be better to provide for them in an easy, regular, and Constitutional way than to trust in chance and violence.” Article 5 of the Constitution lays out the Amendment process, and since 1787 more than 10,000 proposed Amendments have been introduced to Congress. Only 33 Amendments have gained enough votes to be submitted to the States for ratification and just 27 have been ratified.”
—Roy Young – President/CEO, James Madison’s Montpelier
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What exactly no longer works in our 18th century Constitution? For many Americans today that would be a shocking, disturbing question. Some would be appalled that it was even suggested. While on the other hand, for many other Americans the question would illicit just the opposite reaction, frustration perhaps, but not shock. Yet, today the chasm of heated emotions within our split and splitting, polarized politics is quite real. It is undeniable by any foreign observer. Like it or not, in today’s U.S. of A., the battle-lines are rapidly drawn and battle-cries shouted “you’re either with us or against us” as President George W. Bush once proclaimed to the world in the wake of 9/11. Only today, that line drawn in the sand describes acutely our current prognosis of U.S. society: it’s American against American. It’s do or die to the bitter end for our two political parties, nothing less. How on Earth did we arrive here?
Our 18th century federal and state governments can no longer keep pace with our ever fast-moving, evolving 21st century nation, with its people, its industry, or the ever-changing world. This has become ever clearer over the last two decades. Consequently, does this ailing condition mean after 240-years it is too difficult to amend our Constitution, and if so, can we change that? Can necessary reforms be achieved to fix our lethargic, indecisive, incumbered, often grid-locked bicameral Congress so that another January 6th Assault on our Capitol and democracy—by seditious “American insurrectionists”—never happens again? We came very close to losing everything this nation was built upon those 3-4 weeks leading up to January 6th, 2021. We were a lot closer than most realize. More importantly, in a post-Jan 6th America do the qualified lovers and protectors of a lawful Constitutional democracy still have a choice? This is what I want to explore and examine in this multi-part series.
The Best of Times, Now the Worst of Times
Throughout all of human history the records of civilizations, from the Bronze Age through the Classical Age and up to the current Modern Age, have all shown one consistent, repeating pattern: Ignore your subjects, the peasants, the working masses and their fair and reasonable well-being, then by doing so those leaders, nobility, or the Sharif/Ashraf do so at their own peril. Whether leadership is morally just or not, time and time again throughout human history, civil revolutions by fed-up commoners do rise up and often overthrow their snobbishly isolated, unfit tyrannical rulers. This is the final chapter of many an ancient empire or modern nation the Ages of history always bear out.
What are a few of the malignant cancers manifested by our nation’s declining health? What are the signs and diagnosis of a sickly United States? What is our actual and honest State of the Union over the last 3-4 decades? Here’s a brief summary:
Economic Inequality is the worst it has been since the post-WW2 years.
Growing Political Inequality – that is, much less republic representation for all individual voters as opposed to corporate business-owners and their personal special interest groups.
Continued Collapse of America’s Middle Class.
Failing Public Education, particularly beyond a high school diploma.
Chronic Racial and Income Segregation.
Ever Emerging Technologies Causing Declines in Social Cohesion – i.e. social-media addiction.
A Failing Retirement System – Social Security benefits for retirees under persistent threat.
America’s Middle Class Facing Heavier Taxes, particularly for social programs and domestic infrastructure.
The Burden of Increased Taxes Are Not Shared Fairly by the Wealthy.
And these are just nine (9) of the nation’s biggest chronic problems over the last 3-4 decades. I will be exploring and examining these nine U.S. festering ailments throughout this series. What is apparent these past several decades is that the final demise of our precious republic democracy cannot be solved through “politics as usual.” Why not?
The general yet correct answer is that our antiquated 18th century Constitution and the 21st century Supreme Court’s interpretations of it are the primary infections sources of our dire illness. Period. But it isn’t enough to simply generalize the obvious, is it?
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In my next installment of the series I will address how 1) our outdated Constitution has been continually misinterpreted and thus extrapolated by politicians and the Supreme Court to unfairly protect America’s wealthy oligarchs and their corporations, as well as their special interest groups and favored political campaigns. And 2) how our once basic foundation of Separation of Powers no longer functions. Also, I will be referencing an outstanding expert in U.S. Constitutional history and law, PhD graduate of the University of Virginia and JD from Harvard Law School, Dr. George William Van Cleve and his recent book: Making A New American Constitution. I will also be referencing and citing other related sources.
A heads up. I must also beg your patience for the timely, or untimely delivery of these installments. If you are unaware, my life took a major turn or setback (in August 2021) from my previous ability to publish blog-posts on a regular basis due to my Mom’s progressing severe dementia. Therefore, I most likely won’t be able to publish each installment in a normal time-frame. That said, please watch this space and your WordPress notifications for the latest continuation. It would be greatly appreciated! I very much look forward to your participation in discussions below in comments. Thank you. ❤️
Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always
Words. Are they empty when spoken? Do they have meaning? Will they inspire action? Several words used together, do they have context. Is there background behind them giving precise meaning? Is there a motive behind them and the speaker? Will those words inspire emotional, favorable reactions? What type of reactions does a group of words inspire? Are they eliciting virtuous actions or violent reactions? If the latter, are they justifiable actions and reactions for violence, to maim bodies or to take human lives and destroy families permanently? Is violence ever a justified attacking maneuver when your target was not violent?
During many U.S. interventions inside unstable foreign nations perhaps in civil revolt/war, where our military branches were deployed as peace-keeping and protective armed forces for the struggling regime/government under attack, our soldiers were/are specifically ordered do not fire/engage unless fired upon or attackedfirst. In other words, do not return aggression or initiate aggression unless you are first attacked with potential lethal force. A pretty straight forward, simple tactical posture. It is also a posture that for diplomatic (U.N.?) reasons puts your position and military forces in an advantageous, peaceful, above reproach, negotiating posture as well as avoiding the perception of a heinous invading force in the 21st-century. It’s a very good image to the world. How is this passive, peaceful posture overlooked in the United States today by radical, extremist groups seeking violence?
So again I ask, what are words and what do they really mean when spoken? By chanting or screaming “USA, USA, USA,” does that give an American citizen the legal right, or “God-given right” to demean with the intent to outrage others, to vandalize, physically assault, or worse to kill other unarmed, docile and compliant Americans? Not so long ago Japanese Imperial Kōgun and Nazi SS troopers exhibited the same sort of “patriotism” wielded upon unarmed, non-militant citizens. By simply yelling “I love freedom and my country,“ does that self-entitlement to engage in or vilify and behave aggressively as I’ve listed above, or worse do so condescendingly under a guise of freedom and country, give one or a group the right to assault or murder others indiscriminately? Is not that behavior the full-blown antithesis of American values, Lady Liberty, republic democracy, and our entire Constitution and Bill of Rights?
I would hope I do not need to answer those questions, not for decent, peace-loving human beings reading this. Why not? Because I will presume that many or most of you well-educated Americans who attained a high school diploma from our public state curriculums, received passing marks, preferably high marks, in your American government, civics, and history classes through your middle school and high school grade-levels. Yet moreover, all American students should have been prepped prior to those high school Social Studies courses with lessons in Opinion versus Fact, yes? What are the differences of those two words? Which is which, and how, isn’t that correct? I really want to drive home these basic American concepts (presumably) taught to every American student in all 50-states. Yes?
Let’s ask adult Americans in other ways so there is no confusion.
We were supposed to be taught then conduct deliberations with classmates, placed in different groups, comparing, finding similarities, and contrasting what is and is not “fact” and what is and is not “opinion.” Under our nation’s educational standards and applicable curriculums those are/were the introductory lessons before more advanced courses in government, civics, and history. Almost all of our 50-states had/have sufficient-to-above requirements in these critical subjects needed for life in general as ONE student-grad of 331,420,890 (today) other American grads all of whom are essentially living the same life under the same laws, rights, virtues, and duties as any other! Well, that was the plan and theory at least.
It’s the guiding premise of equality for all Americans laid out in our U.S. Constitution, protected and supported by tri-equal Branches of federal to state governments, then semblances at the county and municipal level governments, and finally out to public education in school districts in every state. We presumably learned these core principles beginning in primary school and completed them in secondary school. At least that is and has been the purpose of our K-12 public education standards for over seven decades or more. Furthermore, each of us were and are urged, charged to be politically active or better, immersed in our civic privileges. If a political enthusiast pursues a career in public service, then they will be pushed into a 24/7 limelight of media and news. With public service comes a sacrifice of privacy, especially occupational privacy. By default a civil servant, even the POTUS, has to have an exemplary foundation in these three social-political subjects; it is highly recommended, if not required. As a matter of reputation or public image, it behooves an elected government employee to be either a paralegal in Constitutional Law (at minimum) or a board-certified attorney in Constitutional Law with a law firm if their office and its duties are paramount to national security and the daily well-being of Americans.
After events of January 6, 2021, where is America with regard to these guiding principles and standards of good-to-excellent civic knowledge? Were those insurrectionists or any other radical-Right groups in America tagged by the FBI, ACLU, SPLU, and other advocacy organizations, manifest correct U.S. citizenship, education, and civic duties while at the Capital building that January day? Eh, not so much I’m afraid. Not even close. I wish that was not the case, but America… FACT: we are woefully lacking and crumbling from within.
In our near 245-year history there has always been a contingent of the American rebel population who DO NOT adequately or correctly understand American history, government, and civics. And another contingent absolutely distorts and maligns these three domains of American life and principles laid out in the Constitution, supported as well as enforced by its three branches, top to bottom and with subsequent agencies and offices. Case and point, this PBS Frontline trailer:
This hour and a half documentary by one of the nation’s most respected, impartial and elite investigative programs and staff in the U.S. the last 38-years—collaborating with ProPublica and the University California-Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program—uncovers growing movements of domestic terrorist-insurrectionist groups. Today they are more organized and politically armed with highly polarizing, deceitful propaganda (the words) as well as weaponized to attack any perceived opponents. They frequently do not want to differentiate between Friend or Foe. They are no longer a simple menace or nuisance of insignificant persuasion in the U.S. They are now a major threat to real democracy as the FBI and all our country’s law schools and institutions have warned and keep warning today.
The wide open, unregulated internet today is littered with endless social-media (SM) platforms hooking gullible minds into a petri-dish for planting and growing false information. Tech companies which own the internet SM-platforms so far have regularly avoided and denied responsibility for being Accessoryto illicit and/or starting criminal movements on their sites. Their internet traffic and activities have connected and enabled via their own “private” platforms the further organization (virtually) of an increasing number of extremist groups the last decade or so.
However, this post will not be examining those profit-driven internet companies. This post will not be about the byproduct these SM-companies have generated: the social, civic-political problems so pervasive, divisive, and misunderstood in our heavily tech-driven America, or Techocracy. Though the subject of this post is clearly linked to our Constitution’s First Amendment, I do not wish to spend any time on First Amendment law and its correct legal interpretations. Should you have interest in learning properly the scope of civil-criminal Accessory, then I highly recommend watching this 2018 film on Netflix, “The Accountant of Auschwitz.” Watch it 2-3 times to completely grasp what it means to be a non-participating bystander of a (maiming? lethal? heinous?) crime and do nothing or say nothing to intervene. Not doing or saying anything is also immoral or criminal.
I will, however, mention one pivotal word and its concept and definitions. The definition as well as its embodiment are too often forgotten or unlearned by ordinary Americans and politically-legally incorrect American extremists, like the ones in the above PBS Frontline preview. That word? Defamation.
“Free speech” or the expression of personal law-interpretations does not mean you can say whatever you want in public to someone or to a group and be protected with impunity by the First Amendment. That is an all too common misconception. A verbally slanderous, lying protestor or writer/speaker can actually be sued, tried in court, jailed in 24 different states, and fined in all 50-states in civil court for defamation… in spite of the First Amendment. Regrettably by August 2017 at Charlottesville, VA, to January 6, 2021 those conjured “nuevo individual First Amendment Rights” by these Alt-Right groups moved beyond defamation to physical acts of felony crimes. Those violent far-Righters unknowingly or not, forfeited their Constitutional Rights they were screaming and promoting under false pretenses and ignorance the second they became illegally violent. Granting them that benefit of doubt is probably overly generous and lenient on my part. They are supposed to be arrested, perhaps held in custody for an appropriate time.
For a further elaboration of the correct First Amendment “right to assemble” or protest, click here. For a further elaboration of private vs. public domains (virtual and literal) of free speech within the correct, legal context of the First Amendment, click here. These are two common misconceptions of our Constitution’s First Amendment with regard to 1) the legal right to protest, and 2) the right to free speech, both in relation to media or the internet. That argument and perceived controversy is another blog-post entirely. I want to instead present political words, speeches, campaign rallies, and in this case, forms of black and grey propaganda that has the opposite effect of “freedom and democracy” these radicals scream.
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Four years ago a number of domestic terrorists-insurrectionists groups organized protests culminating in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 11-12, 2017 under the guise of “Unite the Right.” They continued to better organize and grow throughout those four years culminating again January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol under the guise of “Stop the Steal,” of course perpetuated by then departing President Donald Trump. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest watching this exceptional PBS Frontline program “American Insurrection.” It is very well investigated, reported, but disturbingly enlightening for decent, peaceful Americans who know the laws, Constitution, Amendments, and the historical contexts a lot better than these illegal, deceitful, deluded, and homicidal violent extremists. Contrary to what they discharge from their mouths they are not protected in or inspired by our U.S. Constitution as they fraudulently claim. Not in the least. With that said, what I do want to examine closely is the rhetoric these groups, individuals, or leaders use and the conjuration and fallacies behind their words and language.
COMMON RHETORICAL FALLACIES
There are typically three categories of rhetorical fallacies. All of them are abundantly and repeatedly used by both government officials and leaders—yes even U.S. Presidents with no legal education or experience—and political party members and leaders. They are designed to evoke intensely emotional reactions from any gullible listener/reader, sometimes criminal activity. Rhetorical fallacies do not allow open exchanges of ideas upon which productive conversations and solutions occur. Instead they divert the audience’s critical thinking with a variety of one-way pleading ideology at the expense of sound altruistic reasoning. They often misinform an audience of verifiable/verified facts. This ideological language is therefore consumed by unaware, ignorant, ill-informed, gullible and/or bias-confirmation-seeking followers. Those are usually ordinary American citizens who cannot spend the exorbitant time to double-check what the radicals are spewing. But once swallowed then digested the subtle insidious infection spreads to more susceptible consuming hosts. If you are interested in delving into the specifics of common, distorting, deceiving fallacies then click the links below within each of the three groupings. Note that sometimes the below 21 fallacies overlap.
Emotional Fallacies — these manipulate and unfairly appeal to an audience’s emotional triggers. Clickherefor the seven types with examples.
Ethical Fallacies — the idea that ethical considerations will help solve the problem of free will and that free decisions must be confined to some moral (divine?) standard. Clickherefor the seven types with examples.
Logical Fallacies — are errors in reasoning and argument that are based on poor or faulty logic. Clickherefor the seven types with examples.
All three types of fallacies are found in these hate groups. Listening closely and exhaustively to these modern far-Right extremists, their language is loaded with numerous crooked and common rhetorical fallacies. Most of those falsehoods are easily pinpointed. Others must be closely dissected, probed more deeply for the speaker’s/writer’s veiled language based in their background with an aim to reveal the glaring mistakes or flagrant lies.
GANGSTA STYLE — BEING LOUD, PROUD, & TERRIFYING
From Billy the Kid of America’s Wild West, to Bonnie & Clyde and Lucky Luciano of the 1930’s, to Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali (Gambino family) today, the American general public has always had an adoring romance with powerful, egomaniacal, charismatic, hyper-aggressive homicidal Mob-leaders. The total sales, royalties and spin-off merchandizing (past and ongoing) for TV crime shows, movies, and books speak and pander this American palette without doubt. A segment of the American population takes their vicarious fantasies of those past “legends” to the next level: real life. This psychological progression is not far removed from methods of recruitment by well-known militant Islamic terrorist groups targeting malleable new U.S. members. These Alt-Right extremists rarely have any intention of being civil or peaceful when gathering in public to “oppose” other Americans:
Enter Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, Boogaloo Bois, Last Sons of Liberty, American Guard, Rise Above Movement, and the list goes on and on. The above six groups are obscurely defined as “Modern Militia” groups referencing the 1791 Bill of Rights First Amendment concept. Yes, gangsta-style is a textbook M.O. guide to dictatorship and authoritarian rule by fear, violence, then submission. There are plenty, gobs, an endless warehouse full of historical examples of male megalomaniac types who seized power over a people and their lands going back as far as Qin Shi Huang (247-210 BCE) to present day Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Vladimir Putin of Russia; there are no differences between any, past or present. And I can name at least ten others right off the bat, but I will spare your stomachs and hearts of decency.
What should disturb most all decent, humanitarian Americans today, whites included, is that these modern day (violent) militias here inside the U.S. should scare the ba-JEBUS out of all of you. No, our southern border is nowhere close to a “threat” to national security as are these domestic terrorist or semi-terrorist groups and movements.
In this PBS Frontline investigative documentary “American Insurrection“ that aired April 13, 2021, radical-Right militia leader in Virginia, Michael Dunn, frequently stated “I love freedom. I love my country“ and more significantly “We’re the ones crazy enough to actually do something.” Crazy enough? Does that sound civil, wise, calling upon democratic respect, tolerance and understanding with bipartisan collaboration? Yet, on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol they violently kept their proud promise. I have to say, this is eerily familiar to and harkens back to the language of 1942 at the Wannsee Conference in the Wannsee suburb of Berlin, Germany. Watch, from the one and only surviving Nazi dictation-minutes of this conference:
If one has any amount of human decency, of altruism, or an ounce of moral compassion, the language at the Wannsee Conference by all Nazis, Waffen-SS, and Reich Ministry members present… should make you vomit, appalled by such inhumane barbaric insensitivities and arrogance in the modern era.
If radical political groups/movements in the U.S. today are liberally throwing about public language like “I love freedom” and “I love my country,” then it is no real stretch to equate their language to Nazi-SS high-ranking leaders as Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler, and an entire host of other historically recorded barbaric murderers and purveyors of genocide or mass murder. All of those Nazi men essentially said the same sort of rhetoric, “I love our form of freedom” and “I love my country; I will happily lie, steal, and kill for my country” or “we have a serious racial, Jewish, political cancer inside the Fatherland that must be exterminated“… even if doing so is a violation of basic human decency and rights. If you disagree you are a blind fool.
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I think Michael Dunn, Barry Croft, and all other militia minded insurrectionists against our U.S. government members and the Constitution, fail miserably to understand or recognize that under a Republic government with the consent of its people, there is no provision for majority or minority violence… or denial of any legal, peaceful American’s civil rights. None! To borrow from the Koch brothers, strangely ironic here, and their ultra-Conservative, promoted and Koch-funded Bill of Rights Institute, it reads quite clearly on their website:
Majority Rule/Minority Rights: Laws may be made with the consent of the majority, subject to the limitation that those laws do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.
Mr. Dunn, Mr. Croft, and any other such militant American extremists, I believe it is safe to say and interpret that “not to infringe on the inalienable rights of…“ a minority, majority, or any American person or group who disagree with or challenge in a civil manner your personal political, social, or religious beliefs never gives you the right to become violent. It DOES NOT hint of any right to illegally defame, or criminally hurt or kill them with impunity. No, not at all! Your violence further undermines your wrong and distorted movement. Period! More astoundingly, does this have to be routinely said and explained to Americans and the rest of the world?
After the previous five years, shamefully I guess it does. I know this constant Constitutional principle has been explained, though poorly and inconsistently enforced, since at least the early 19th-century and heard in various ways in the U.S. Supreme Court. A disgraceful fact and track-record America.
Another thing. Contrary to mainstream belief and assumption, the “right to assemble” on publicgrounds, to protest and petition our state and federal governments on public property is NOT protected if the said assemblies and protests literally turn violent, maiming and/or killing other Americans. As occurred at the 2017 Charlottesville protests, all too often when violence and killing breaks out county, state, and federal law-enforcement too often fail to intervene, protecting those peaceful victims. Or they are ill-prepared to protect peacefully gathering Americans enacting their civil rights.
Time and time again in several cases of our country’s volatile past this lawlessness was due to the personal political bias of local and/or state authorities and law-enforcement—i.e. the march, protest, or movement in question opposed and was adversarial to his or her personal political persuasions. This was despite their sworn legal vow to protect and uphold all county, state, and federal laws and principles as a PUBLIC servant. It does not state to serve your own specifically favored ideals and other “like-minded” public officials. Public means everybody in your precinct, district, or state you represent and serve as well as part of the Union of 50 States of America that your representation is under. Again, “UNDER” the federal jurisdiction of the U.S. government and its present laws, while also respecting state’s rights, of course. But flagrant violations of our Bill of Rights by domestic extremist, militant groups such as the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, Oath Keepers, etc, are on the rise. From CSIS, Center For Strategic & International Studies, data tables from 2020:
As I watched in sickly horror the Frontline footage of violence/death in Charlottesville, VA 2017, to Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington D.C. in 2021, I listened to the vitriol language and words of these domestic extremists. What slapped me in the face was the level of distortion and deception they spoke toward and under “patriotic duty” with erroneous extrapolations of our Bill of Rights and Constitution. They were simply attempting to justify their ambitions for violence, or as they’d promote: revolution, akin to our 18th-century thirteen colonies fighting the war against British Imperialism and tyranny.
They could not be more historically, principally, or legally wrong. Not the same. A common rhetorical fallacy and misguided tactic.
Interviewing Barry Croft while in prison—the vice-leader of the Three Percenters militia who attempted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for employing COVID-19 health and safety measures; lock-downs in order to minimize hospital pandemic overruns and save lives—Frontline recorded Croft’s distorted language such as “JUNTA“ and “coming into power by force, being ruled by[Biden]an illegitimate authority“ permissible by Constitutional provisions under militia statutes to act combative as such against fellow Americans. That “unorganized militia,” he extrapolates, “is absolutely necessary to the security of a free state.” Croft goes on to say later that “when you try talking and talking and talking and you don’t get anywhere militant is the obvious, natural progression. That’s it. You leave[me] no choice“ but to be violent, to maim, or kill other non-violent Americans under the banner of patriotic love of country as did the Nazis for the Fatherland. That is what Croft is implying.
What modern militia leader Mike Dunn of the Boogaloo Bois, a far-Right militant group should do is just openly proclaim his unadulterated hate truth and say “I love MY freedom. I love MY OWN perceived country. But I despise any Americans who do not agree with MY version of a United States of America.” That disturbing mantra is what actually manifests from their Constitutionally distorted, political propaganda spewed to the public, to news agencies, and on social-media networks.
Honestly Mr. Dunn? Seriously? Are those the founding principles, virtues, and spirit of a Constitutional democracy and of total equality in our Republic? I am curious to know the levels of education these leaders attained.
Furthermore, I hope I do not have to answer that rhetorical question. Not to any decent, intelligent, civically-educated and peace-loving American. Please, I beg you my visitors and readers, do not fall prey to these hateful people’s deceptions, distortions, and ill-founded extrapolations of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. They must be opposed, but in civic discourse through appropriate legal means. As a domestic enemy, these leaders and extremist groups are categorically wrong in their actions. They willingly spread the antithesis of correct American Constitutional democracy. They have to be confronted, challenged, and closely monitored no matter how they threaten retribution. Consider what people like Martin Niemöller suffered for his silence and lethargy:
The courage to speak up, to stand up bravely, unflinching to those mislead haters, who use bullying and criminal violence against humanity to control, to dominate by fear and tyranny must be done. They employ mere gangster-tactics. Opposing them must be found, summoned, verbally and actively challenged and opposed, even inside this great country’s borders and in opposition to fellow deluded citizens. Besides, I ask you… when has freedom, liberty, and full democracy ever been a given, a presumed cake-walk in our 245-year history?Never. It has always demanded vigilance, sacrifice, possibly death, duty, and protection, 24/7, 365-days a year since July 4, 1776. Period. Stop. I do not see this good fight ending anytime soon.
A quick word of Texas-cowboy advice. To anyone who chooses to blindly follow and support a leader/boss rather than be an independent, learned, yet cooperative philanthropic, humanitarian and critical-thinker as a team, I tell you this: be then beyond reproach with your privileged sociopolitical wisdom and exceptional cunning, BEFORE you “hitch your wagon“ to a group/person. That goes to any political party-member in America.
LAST QUESTIONS – AN UNAVOIDABLE FINAL SOLUTION?
Last October 2020 while waiting outside my local polling station for early voting for the state and federal elections, I chatted briefly with a military veteran of two tours, one in Afghanistan, one in the Arabian Peninsula. I expressed my gratitude as I often do for his service. We struck up some informal chit-chat regarding his service and our homeland’s fluid political landscape. After a few exchanges of generic comments and jokes about American/Texas politics, the soldier and veteran explicitly expressed his viewpoint and displeasure with how liberal, downhill and “progressive” the country was (supposedly) headed. I grinded my teeth immediately. I took 10-20 seconds telling myself don’t take the bait, not here at the polling location. Keep the moment pleasant, civil, and neutral. In 15-minutes he and I will never see each other again.
Being U.S. Army retired/discharged and as I remember vaguely, part of a battalion based in Georgia somewhere (485th?), this caucasian gentleman, maybe late 20’s or early 30’s, fit and muscular, hinted how very proud he was to be part of a highly patriotic, Get-It-Done and Get-Up-n-Go outfit willing to “fight and die” for this country. I assumed he meant during his tours of duty. But then he mentioned our Texas border problem and “illegal immigrants” crossing over to leach off our great country. I had to bite my tongue 2-3 times hoping the next group of waiting voters like us would be ushered in to the voting machines. Then he said it:
“We true Americans need to stand up to the covert takeover of our democracy, fight for its preservation, kill or be killed like my Unit in Afghanistan.”
— Veteran at Voting-Polling station, Oct. 2020, Dallas, TX
I remained silent as he seemed to wait for my reaction. Then he turned to me and asked “Right?“ as if being a white man in the politically Red-state of Texas made me one of his kind. I pursed my brow and calmly asked him “protect what from whom exactly here at home?” I tried to briefly explain that here in Texas and most of the country there are no domestic combat zones of U.S. enemies; only protestors, marchers, voters, etc, exercising their legal rights to participate in free civil democracy. Soon after I shared my own political stance and viewpoints, I thanked him again for protecting me and my rights to be there voting, freely. It appeared he did not take my genuine gratitude so well.
“Would you question“ he asked boldly “my loyalty and love to my country, especially as a former Army soldier and veteran abroad?“ he said as the brave soldier I’m sure he was. I said no, of course not. I don’t know enough about the rest of your life outside of the U.S. Army. Then I was candid with him. “However, with all due respect, if you wrongly perceive other, different American’s basic human ‘inalienable rights’ in light of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights and all liberties given to legal American citizens here especially at home,“ I explained, “then I won’t question your volunteered service with our deployed military inside a combat zone and everything that entails and demands of you and your family—truly a noble, honorable service—but I would question your position as a decent, non-military human being on planet Earth in our presumably peaceful, civil democratic nationwith fair and legally precise election processes.“
I politely grinned at the man. I do remember thinking to myself, “I am truly grateful for all our military service men and women. I’d want him in my squad/platoon I’m sure, if I served in a combat zone.” About that time the volunteer election-worker told us to enter the room of several available voting-machines. The former U.S. soldier and I did not have the opportunity later to speak again. Perhaps that was best, I’m not sure. Was he angrily waiting for me outside?
I have a fantasy. This (fading?) fantasy is that any of our current domestic extremist groups, and all of their passionate members, perfectly recite these words from March 4, 1865, spoken on the same steps the January 6, 2021 insurrectionists-terrorists trampled, vandalized, and murdered a Capital Police Officer:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish, a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln, 2nd Inaugural Address, U.S. Capital Building 1865
I did return home safely, (deep relieved exhale) unharmed that October day last year in my deeply Red, proud Lone Star State. Will the same outcome happen for me and for other law-abiding, reasonable, civically responsible and peaceful Texas-Americans in 2024 and beyond? For a citizen of a once purer Constitutional Republic democracy, I’m unsure the answer for me is certain or guaranteed.